Letter to the Chair of the Committee from Rt Hon
David Hanson MP, Minister of State, Home Office, dated 24
DEMONSTRATING RESPECT FOR RIGHTS? FOLLOW-UP REPORT
I wanted to provide you with an update on the Government's
planned response to the report 'Demonstrating Respect for Rights?
Follow-up' by the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) published
on 14 July 2009.
The Home Office submitted written and oral evidence
to JCHR's review into policing protest and published a formal
reply in May 2009. The Government welcomes the JCHR's follow-up
report and is committed to continuing to engage constructively
with the Committee on what remains a very important area.
As you will be aware, there have been a number of
reviews into the policing of protest in recent months, and we
await Her Majesty's Inspectorate Constabulary's (HMIC) full Report
which is due to be published in November. We are in the process
of carefully considering JCHR's latest recommendations, and will
be able to provide you with a more comprehensive response once
the HMIC Review is published alld following the publication of
the Policing White Paper next month: I will ensure you are provided
with a full response by 9 December 2009, but in the interim I
wanted to give you an update on the Government position of the
core issues raised in your Report;
Firstly, it is important to reiterate the evidence
provided by my predecessor, Vernon Coaker. The Government is clear
that it is important to recognise the professionalism of police
forces in facilitating the vast majority of protests without conflict
or disorder. It is also important to recognise the successes of
the G20 policing operation: criminal activity and wider disruption
to London was minimal, the police maintained the high levels of
security needed to protect those attending the Summit and over
the course of two days thousands were able to protest peacefully.
However it is of course right that those incidents
that call into question the actions of individual officers, and
any concerns over police tactics, are properly explored and lessons
I would also reiterate. that we are committed to
protecting and facilitating the right to peaceful protest. We
will be using the opportunity of the White Paper to reaffirm this
commitment and to set out the key principles that must underpin
the policing of protest.
We agree too that good communication between police
and protestors - and with the media - is the key to ensuring 'no
surprises policing', and that the use of tactics like containment
and use of force must be proportionate. We will set out in our
full response how we think this can best be achieved working with
a full range of partners.
In our reply to your report and in oral evidence
to the Committee, the Home Office also gave undertakings to consult
on amendments to section 5 of the
Public Order Act 1986, to look at how the Protection
from Harassment Act is Sometimes used against protestors and to
look at the impact of the privatisation of public space on the
right to protest. We have sought views from a range of stakeholders
on section 5 and are currently collating the responses; we remain
in discussions with the Ministry of Justice on the use of injunctions
against protestors and will be drawing on the work of the HMIC
Review in responding to the Committee's concerns around quasi-public
Finally, you will have seen that the Government has
brought forward repeal of sections 132-138 of the Serious Organised
Crime and Police Act 2005 in the Constitutional Renewal and Governance
Bill. In doing so we have directly addressed the Committee's concerns
about the level of access the police are required to maintain.
I look forward to the Committee's support for these provisions
as we take them through both Houses.
I am copying this letter to the Commissioner of the
Service, the President of ACPO and Her Majesty's
Chief Inspector of Constabulary.